Technology and the “realities of life” don’t always mix well in the hvacr service business. You want to use technology to be more efficient and provide better customer service, but software and hardware can be expensive.

Now, the merger of wireless and Internet technology has changed that. Innovative companies are finding that they can provide enhanced customer service, win new customers, and drive down the cost of managing mobile workers by taking advantage of application service providers (ASPs) and the wireless Internet.

ASPs are service companies that provide a shared, secure business application through the Internet on a subscription basis. Because the application is shared, there are no server maintenance or software costs for the subscriber, and the most recent version of the software is always available.

The ASP provides all the full-time monitoring, technical support and data management as part of the monthly user fee. For many companies, it means that sophisticated dispatch, field service management, and customer service capabilities are available without a huge investment in technology.

Recently, companies such as Microsoft, HP and Intel have established ASP business units to service this growing market.

Other ASPs have merged an Internet application with standard wireless technology to provide field service companies a customer service, dispatch, and field service management tool.

For example, a dispatcher or service manager using a PC with an Internet browser and Internet access makes service call assignments with detailed directions and customer information using the application. The assignments are then routed through an application server and passed on to one of the wireless data networks. Mobile technicians with wireless phones or pagers are notified of the assignment, review the details, and confirm without having to call the dispatch center.

Throughout the day, the mobile worker provides job status updates and delay notices, while the dispatcher or service manger handles service requests and schedules changes without making extra phone calls. If desired, customers can access job status information or place service requests online. Optional integration with existing back office systems such as inventory, account information, etc., can be included in the service.

The service works with just about any major wireless carrier and with a variety of handheld wireless-enabled devices. It also works with multiple types of messaging devices at the same time.

Although the technology is sophisticated, the system and devices are simple to operate and the hvacr contractor does not need to maintain any sophisticated technology infrastructure or software.

Of course, business needs, procedures and terminology vary from company to company, so this tool has been designed to be customized to reflect the way each company does business.

Publication date: 08/28/2000